… Films that Tell the Most of it
The Namibian story can at times be described as a cocktail, a tale made up of so many snippets. It ranges from stories about the earliest times of the country, the funny side of the country to pre and post-colonial times, crime, domestic violence and many others. The Namibian film industry may not be big as such but it surely has films that serve to imitate life as it is in every other place. If not the life that is, then the life that was, or the life that could be. It is the same with these Namibian films which have brought to the world the part of the country that probably was never heard before.
Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation
‘The Struggle for Liberation’ is a documentary film that was released in 2007. It tells the rise to power of the founding father Sam Nujoma who is a renowned leader in Namibia’s struggle for independence from South Africa. Opening when Nujoma was 16 years old with the country under constant oppression from South Africa, the young man learns that he is the direct descendant of royalty. He sets off as a young man to live with an aunt, and befriends a religious man who has maintained a low profile after legal troubles stemming from a suspicious car accident. Eventually Nujoma, in the face of severe racism, forms the SWAPO political movement that, with the assistance of some foreign governments earns Namibia its independence. The film is directed by Charles Burnett with a dialogue in English, Afrikaans, Oshiwambo, Otjiherero and German.
This powerful film is one that tells the story of Katutura, the township with a proud resistance history and the everyday struggles of life in the township. There are constant instances of crime, drug abuse, and violence. Despite the overwhelming amount of disparity, there is strength in the community and their creativity to prosper during such hard times. This film follows a group of characters through the turmoil and tough times of the township. The main characters Dangi, who is an ex-convict who must lead a clean and law-abiding life, crosses paths with Shivago, who is looking for a new market to sell his drugs to. Kondja, a teenager in a wheelchair who helps street kids also features prominently. The collision of these lives makes for a powerful representation of both the brutality and the hopefulness that these young lives experience – all in the same neighbourhood. Katutura was released in 2015 and directed by Florian Schott.
‘Uushimba’ is a story of a young man, Hangula, who arrives in the city seeking greener pastures. He gets caught up with his cousin, Tangeni’s thuggish life and becomes a recruit in Tangeni’s gang. An opportunity presents itself for Hangula to pursue his ambitions of a career in art, but Tangeni convinces him to carry out one last robbery with them where after he is to help him realise his dreams. The film is directed by Khama Nakanduungileh and the cast comprised of Gustav Nuuyoma who played as Hangula, Jason Shivute as Tangeni, Elago Ndapewa Shitaatala as Katrina, James Paulus as Kalipi and Kondja “Laukey” Lungameni as Gibson. The film premiered in 2016.
‘The Unseen’, written and directed by Perivi John Katjavivi, is the story of three young people as they navigate spaces, both emotionally and physically, in modern day post-colonial Namibia – spaces that are normally ‘unseen’. The film is a collection of philosophical musings on what it means to be alive in independent Namibia.
The film blurs the line between documentary and fiction, skillfully exploring heavy issues of South African Apartheid, the legacy of German colonialism, post-colonialism and cultural appropriation. The stars of Unseen include Senga Brockerhoff, Matthew Ishitile, and Antonio David Lyons. It follows the interwoven stories of their characters as they traverse a myriad of emotions. The Unseen is a movie that decidedly chooses to not engage or envelop its subject matter with the usual tropes of African films: poverty, war, child soldiers, HIV/AIDS, corrupt government officials. The film has three wandering souls, each being pulled and tugged in opposite directions. Somewhere in the middle is something beautiful, something terrifying; something unseen.
Whispers in the Wind
‘Whispers in the Wind’ tells a Namibian story of domestic violence. It portrays a family that experience serious and subtle forms of domestic violence. The step-father, a long-distance truck driver subjects his wife and two children to many different forms of domestic violence.
The film ties the theme of domestic violence to the issues of child abuse and HIV/AIDS. A young girl is raped by her promiscuous step-father. She becomes pregnant and discovers that she is HIV positive. Her mother has also been infected. A strong dramatic element is included as the film reveals the fact that the step-father is the culprit only in the closing moments. The film comes with a strong sub-theme on the responsibility of the churches to speak out about HIV. One scene shows how difficult it can be for women to negotiate condom use in a context of violence, while other scenes portray more subtle forms of child abuse – such as belittling children, neglecting children, and favouring male children over female children in the allocation of food. The film thus portrays a spectrum of child abuse from widespread forms of maltreatment to extremely serious abuse in the form of rape. The short film was directed by Dudley Viall and produced by the Legal Assistance Centre in 2002.
The Namibian film industry is forging ahead with some great productions and has been making strides towards becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Namibian entertainment. A lot of films have been released and they truly tell the Namibian story.